Posted in Movies

When Death Breaks the Charm of Happily-Ever-Afters | A Little Bit of Heaven

Romantic comedies and romantic drama has been one of my most binge watched genres of movies for a very long time. Until I decided on writing deeper and more meaningful things, I did not drift away from this genre. But every now and then I turn back and spend a series of movies from the same old lovey dovey list where the movies begin with a lack of love and end with eternal love having been found.

But over the years, the genre has pushed me towards what is called a more serious kind of romance – the romance that is usually followed or preceded by a death. Either of the lovers or one only one of them, leaving my usual expectations of a happily-ever-after exposed to real life.

And actually thinking about it, it is easy to see how the greatest of love stories are indeed associated with death. Death is the greatest loss of life, its opposite, better or worse half I cannot say for sure, but its half. And somehow love is deeply connected to both of them deeply. As if love was the quality of the entity whose two opposite faces were life and death. As if love was the value of the coin, whose opposite sidees were life and death, head and tail.

These stories, they are people responding to deaths of people they knew. They cannot, would not, may not be about people dying themselves. It is about people dealing with the ideas of death as well of life, these stories. In these stories that move you to life or to death, are about real life people who moved to music that made them feel alive, or cried tears of pain at a death and converted those tears into words to become stories.

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The movie ends with the woman and the form in which she saw her God, sitting on a couch, sipping champagne the celebration drink and moving like Gods to the wonderful music of celebration. A new child was born on the day that she dies. Feeling so much happiness and so much sadness all at once is not easy. And amazingly that is what is life. Atleast that is what the storytellers of this story want to share with us. How life is incredibly happy and incredibly sad all at once. There is life and there is death. There is life because there was death and there is death only because there was life. How does the number of souls increase because human population increases you may ask, well that is a bummer I am yet to resolve.

But until then, these wonderful stories continue to make me feel alive and grateful for being alive as is. I am with people who know what is love and what are life and death. I am surrounded by the words of some and I am surrounded by others physically, as family and dear friends!

~

Some lovely romantic drama every now and then is always a cheer up. Do watch one of those oldies that are your favourites or any new one or just the one I shared with you today, and have a tinge of the fairy tale romance in your real world cocktail!

Please follow the blog for more such stories. I put out blogs every Monday and Thursday.

Posted in Artists, Poetry

Naive Women Through The Centuries | Legend of the Blue Beard and Ellie Goulding

We have all been through a heartbreak at some point of time in our lives. We have all, also been through a breach of trust. More often than not, we have been put through these experiences by people close to us – people we fall in love with like in our relationships or people we are forced to love like our families. We have all bled our ways through the wounds of back stabbing dishonesty. And we have found ways to heal as well.

I believe the greatest function of art is to address such primal, underlying unities of existence. To remind us that we are all in this together, even if we do not see it immediately. And that we are all having our own journeys and struggles, which are glorious in their own ways. As Beyonce has famously quoted that if we must heal, let it be glorious.

For me something becomes glorious when it passes the tests of time, when our stories pass the tests of time. One of the most heartwarming ways of finding this glory is through ancient tales which can, even after hundreds of years of retelling, still resonate with a part of us somewhere.

After an awful break up in my life, I had resorted to finding solace in one of the songs by Ellie Goulding. It was called My Blood.

And God knows I’m not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it’s the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

I loved the song for its echoing drums that resonated in the air of my body. Turning the volume up to full, I could feel the woofers thumping in my chest with each beat. It helped the wounded heart.

Then I read the lyrics for the first time and found them to be profoundly contextual to a toxic relationship, which is something I resonated with as well. And then finally I came across an old legend from a book I am currently reading called Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarisse Pinkola Estes. It was called Bluebeard and was about how naive young girls are often led into treacherous and deadly relationships by cunning men.

It goes like this,

Blue Beard

A group of sisters is once visited by a stranger with a Blue Beard. It is rumoured that he is a man of questionable intentions, especially when he asks the hand of a woman in marriage. The Blue Beard is a sign of his questionable personality. While the elder of the sisters remain untouched by his wooing skills, the youngest and the most naive one, falls prey. She agrees to his proposal of marriage and leaves to live with him. In the castle of the Blue Beard, she is showered with all kinds of wealth and resources at her disposal. But she is bound by just one condition. That she cannot open one particular room of the castle, the key to which is with Blue Beard always.

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One fine day, he leaves for a trip and hands over all the keys ot the young girl. He warns her to open every room in the castle and use what lies in there for herself, except that one room that is forbidden. While she is alone, her wiser, older sisters come to visit. She narrates to them, the rules of the house. They are fascinated adn curious mainly about the forbidden door.

So they lure the young girl into finding out. Led into curiosity by the support of her sisters, the young girl opens the forbidden door only to find the whole room splashed with blood. Red blood of bodies whose bones were stacked up in one corner of the room. Horrified, she quickly closes the door again and puts the key back in its place with the other keys.

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But soon she finds out that the key to the forbidden room, refused to drip blood even after the room had been locked again. The blood flowing from the key began to stain everything that it came in contact with. She could not un-see the blood after having seen it once. So when the Blue Beard returned, he immediately knew that the forbidden door had been opened and his command had been overruled. Furious, he howled at her saying that she too was now going to join the rest of the women in that bloody room for the offence. The offence of disobeying the husband.

Our young girl then tricks the Blue Beard into his own death because she takes the help of her wise sisters and also her brave brothers. She rings the bell to summon her brothers, who arrive and kill the Blue Beard.

After reading this story and its various explanations, with symbolisms of each character and incidence, I closed the book and returned to listening to music. The playlist with the songs of Ellie Goulding’s album Halcyon began playing and then came the track titled My Blood.

And God knows I’m not dying but I bleed now
And God knows it’s the only way to heal now
With all the blood I lost with you
It drowns the love I thought I knew

My Blood and Blue Beard

The above written words somehow reminded me of the young girl from the Blue Beard story. The lines ‘I’m not dying but I bleed now’ seemed to ring bells in my brain that connected the two dots, for obvious reasons. I was forced to look more closely at the lyrics of the song and found amazing parallels.

For starters, the song refers to the blood that the woman bled while she was in a relationship with this man. (Halcyon is an album Ellie made after a famous break up that she had.) But somewhere in the middle of the relationship, she discovers an awful truth which forces her to get rid of a feeling.

That feeling that doesn’t go away just did
And I walked a thousand miles to prove it
And I’m caught in the crossfire of my own thoughts
The color of my blood is all I see on the rocks
As you sail from me

The first line of the song is actually comparable to the naive girl form Blue Beard and her feeling of insane hope, that probably her husband is not so bad after all. She finds this insanity disappearing completely one fine day.She finally comes to terms with the fact that her husband is actually going to murder her for disobeying his command. Despite the ‘crossfire of thoughts’ in her head ‘the colour of … blood … on the rocks’ makes the truth clearer for her. The unstoppable flow of blood on the metal key, refuses to let the truth be hidden.

As he is setting sail from her, the truth is become clearer to her. She is listening to her wise sisters again. The wise sisters are actually symbolic of the wisdom faculties of her own mind, which she ignores at the start of the story to act out of the naivety of her young age. But as the Blue Beard sets sail away from her, she returns to her senses.

Alarms will ring for eternity
The waves will break every chain on me
My bones will bleach
My flesh will flee
So help my lifeless frame to breathe

The alarms are rung by the young girl once she finds out the truth of her husband’s crimes. She rings them out for her brothers. Her brothers symbolise her own masculine aspects of action and sovereignity which come to a woman’s rescue in times like these. The waves of the storm in her own ocean are breaking the chains on her soul and breathing fresh air into her dead bones.

The symbol of dead bones is for the lack of freedom with which she is previously kept by her husband. Despite being given all the riches, she is refused the right to complete truth about her husband. She is more or less like a bird in a golden cage. And the bones and blood in the forbidden are symbolic of her own crushed dreams and aspirations of flying away. So she is now bleaching her bones to strenghten them and fleeing her flesh by teaching herself to fly again with her repaired bones and wings.

~

I was amazed at the direct parallels that I could draw between the two stories. But then maybe it should not be so suprising because this ancient folk tale actually belongs to the French lands of Europe, which is where our author Clarisse Pinkola Estes as well as artist Ellie Goulding, belong to. It could easily have been handed down to them from the women in the house – the older and wiser women who want their young girls not to fall prey to their own naivety.

Incidences like these, when art resounds itself perfectly across centuries, warms me from within. It restores my faith in the underlying unity of being human and  the fact that there are others who are suffering and sharing my pain as well. That I am not alone. I may not have these people around me everyday. They may not be my friends or even family, but they are still near me because of their words. The words that have stood the tests of time and reached me through this amazing network of stroytellers, across the ages. And I feel only obliged to contributing to this network by doing my part.

So here I am sharing the stories that touch my heart and soul every Monday and Thursday. Follow the blog to join me in my adventures and do comment below if the story of the Blue Beard and the song My Blood by Ellie Goulding resonated to you as well.

 

 

Posted in Movies

How Some Book Adaptations Are Not Lies | The Perks of Being a Wallflower

A true thing, if poorly expressed, is a lie. – Stephen Fry

In Why Movie Adaptations Of Books Are Lies, the previous blog post, we saw the above words of acclaimed actor and comedian Stephen Fry come true. But there are some things that are so well expressed, with all the truth both in intention and action, that the truth is bound to come through to our hearts.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one such work of expression. Maybe we should allow more writers to direct the movies that are adaptations of their movies. Because the writer (Stephen Chbosky) of the novel, on which this coming of age movie (but is so much more than just that), is based on has also directed the motion picture. Since it was the writer itself involved in deciding what of the novel goes into the picture and how, the truth is kept very much alive during the transformation from a book to movie.

Talking about this story we are not talking about a book or a film, we are forced to talk about the real people involved. They and their stories become more important than the people who are telling the stories. Which is the way it should ideally be. The storyteller, be it the movie maker or the novelist, should lose themselves into the characters of their story. They need to shed their own personality and let the characters be seen for who they are. This is the challenge indeed which makes a story touch hearts and stay there for a long time.

Both the media of storytelling, bring you closer to the beautiful heart of the wallflower, Charlie. He is a teenager with a very unadulterated view to the world. Considering that he has spent a very crucial time of his childhood in a psychiatrist’s office, he has been kept at bay from the regular school life ever since. He has learnt to be ignored by the groups formed at school because they think he is a freak. His only friend commits suicide right before the story begins.This rather unfortunate experience has forced him to be at a distance from the world around him and hang on the wall – silently looking and observing but not participating.

The story begins when he is forced to participate, both by the ones who love him already and the ones he will come to love eventually. His psychiatrist and his family have motivated him to make a new beginning at making friends. And this brings him to the two people that will change his life forever, two beautiful souls by the name of Sam and Patrick.

Perks of being Misfits

All three of them are misfits of the school life. And honestly, as we discover as the story moves on, blessed to be secluded from it all. This is the story of how they each discover their places in the real world, the world beyond high school. That is one of the most wonderful things about being a misfit in any world, you are forced to go beyond it in order to find somewhere you can fit. You get to go beyond what you have known to be true all your life. Maybe being a misfit is a sad way out, but then sadness is the other face of happiness. They are both gifts of this life which make it valuable, like the two opposite faces of a coin.

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Patrick is a gay man in a world that is homophobic by default. He is the anomaly amongst the boys who are being brought up by family and the popular culture to be proper. To be a man and an honourable one. But he is a ruthless, carefree boy who wants to be everything inappropriate according to the society. He wants to love another man, to kiss him and make him feel loved. He wants to play music that touches his aching heart and wants to stay close to people who appreciate music and are not in a commercial relationship with it.

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Sam is a young woman in the making, who has not felt the protection of a household and been abused by men in her own house as a child. She is used to finding security in men who treat her like shit. She is used to acting dumb with the men in her life, to make herself small, in order for them to feel important and stay with her. So they just continue loving her. The need for love has replaced all the other priorities. She is trying hard to find meaning amongst her loved friends who have accepted her. Her step brother Patrick, who has come to take over the role of a beloved male in her life, has also brought her solace. But she yearns for a deeper togetherness that binds her body and soul to another’s. She is a dreamer who believes in a soul mate, which she found in the most beautiful music. She wants to see her dream come true.

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As for Charlie, he is a young boy who has been a wall flower since very early in his life and for way too long now. He has forgotten what it was to participate in life and the ongoings of the room, whose wall he decorates by hanging on to it. The little nuances of each character are being seen through his sensitive eyes in the story. He understands and really sees each one. He is unbiased in his attention and then when he chooses to finally have a major portion of his attention drawn to the most beautiful thing he can find, love, it wells up our eyes. He is a sensitive soul, pure as a dew drop, capable of forming a whole river, but held by his ability to feel the pain of the mud that will wrap around his purity, if he chooses to roll down. He sees this dirt of pain and suffering in all the dew drops around, in all the souls around him. He feels the tears rolling down the face of all those who have come before him and all those who will come after him. He sees that we are all indeed in this together and yet alone in our own special way. And that we are each their for ourselves and we are each our own best bets at making through life.

This is the story of him realising this underlying unity that runs beneath the separated islands of the ocean of life. He makes the people around him realise that as well by making them feel that they are special to him and that he sees them. It often leaves them spell bound or sometimes ashamed at not reciprocating the same feeling back to him or sometimes in complete gratitude for being seen and loved. Sam and Patrick are one of those people, also his parents and siblings, eventually.

One of the most important lessons this story taught me was to take the opportunity of being broken in life, and realising that we are broken in our special ways. And we all have our own shots at being happy again, at being healed again. He is a victim of paedophilia as a young kid and because he is abused by someone he loves, his own aunt, he is forced to never acknowledge it to be an abuse. He never realises the horror of this situation until he is touched once again. but with pure love this time. That is when he realises that the last time someone touched him was not out of love but out of something ugly. It was not lust. It was a hideous grief of a woman who was abused as a kid herself. Knowing her terrible past, Charlie brings himself to forgiving his poor aunt for what she did to him. He chooses love above that grief which she could not help but transfer onto him.

Do watch the movie or read the wonderful story in its long form, to experience this young man coming of age to the deepest of things of the adult world. While some of those things maybe ugly, there are some pearls too, that he discovers in those depths. Take the journey with him atleast once, and be rewarded with what it feels like to be a wallflower!


It was one of the most tranforming experiences for me to know and live the story of Charlie, Sam and Patrick as a teenager myself. I grew up and came of age with them. I listened to their music both in the book and the movie (Heroes by David Bowie and Asleep by The Smiths). I have cried so many times with both the happy and sad parts of their lives. And foremost I have also tried to find the pearls of purity in the depths of my own life, inspired by them.

I hope that this love transfers onto yourself and you too find some value in this story. If you do, I will find my aim of writing this blog fulfilled. In closing I would like to say that another very important lesson I took from this story is that

It is not a mountain full of stone that can hinder our journey to the top, but the tiny pebble in your shoe that will hold you back. So I hope that you too focus on finding the pebble in your own shoe and take it out of your life, instead of being consumed by fear of the whole mountain.

I post in new stories every Monday and Thursday. Please follow the blog to let me share beautiful and wonderful experiences with you!

Here are some wonderful quotes from this story.

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Posted in Movies

Why Movie Adaptations Of Books Are Lies | The Devil Wears Prada

There is a book named Women Who Run With The Wolves: Myths and Legends of the Wild Woman Archetype. It’s author Clarissa Pinkola Estés is a Jungian psychoanalyst who uses the power of stories and storytelling to revive the lost Wild Woman archetype in the lives of her patients. After twenty five years of studying mythology, folklore and how they have changed over different periods of time around the world, she says, one of the most  important changes that stories have undergone in our world is of acquiring simpler plots. The complicated dynamics of greys being replaced by stark and dual blacks and whites. There is exactly one enemy and exactly one hero. There are very simple plots and paths that the legends have now begun to take.

Reading the book that was the inspiration for the movie The Devil Wears Prada, I felt this holds completely true for every other kind of retelling of stories. Althought Ms Estés quoted this to be for the mythologies and folklores, the modern  day movie adaptations and TV serial adaptations of books prove the encompassing prescience of her thought even today.

It is said amongst storytellers, as a story runs down multiple storytellers, it acquires the personality of each one of them. Sometimes it is for the good of the story and sometimes not. I think when books are turned into movies, it is a rather bigger challenge to be able to recreate the experience of the written word into the visible, moving medium. The biggest threat that accompanies this failed challenge is of simplifying story in order to ease the transformation.

Simple stories are great. Anything complex, if told simply, is good only as long as it is not affecting the truth of the story itself. Which is why I believe over-simplification is the worst thing that can be done to a good story. And that is what, I believe, has been done in case of The Devil Wears Prada, the movie adaptation of the book by the same name by author,Lauren Weisberger. Although its actress Meryl Streep was nominated for an Academy Award for her part, the movie in itself failed to justify the book.

The story was written by its author more like a memoir, it was an ode to the life gone by and the lessons learnt along the way. But the movie ended up turning it into an opportunity to display the fashionable world of the glamour industry with a small flaw of over work and occassional hypocrisy. The layer of the flaws is so thin in the movie that it is shown to be eventually cracked, by the end of the movie, and cracked quite easily for that matter. While the book goes on to show the reality where the whole industry is flawed and misleading to the generations of youngsters around the world.

In order to be able to elaborate further, we will have to talk a bit more about the central plot story.

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So Andrea Sachs is your regular geeky girl from a decent college who loves literature and wants to become a writer for the famous magazine The New Yorker. She ends up taking a rather unusual job at a fashion magazine; unusual because she is no where close to world of fashion. But circumstances bring her to taking up a job as the personal assistant of one of fashion industry’s most celebrated fashion editors, Miranda Priestly.

She soon learns that there would be a “million girls who would kill for the job she now has” and decides to do more justice to it. But it soon becomes evident to her that she is inadequate in every way to do so.

Now here is where the plots of the book and the movie begin to fork out on completely separate paths of their own.

While Andy (Andrea) of the book simply goes with the flow and does as much she can to fit into the role bore out for her, the Andy in the movie takes it up as a challenge and somehow transforms herself for the role. The movie-Andy finds herself actually loving her job as she gets brand new clothes to wear, expensive cars to travel in and exotic locations to travel to. But the truth of the book-Andy is that she is actually living life “by the day”. She is struggling to meet the end of each day under her horrendous boss who loves to break those that are around her, in order to feel important and special. She is not having expensive clothes to wear but instead just the lying around fashion of the oversize 16. Our book-Andy is only being taken care of by the company with its left over food-kinda clothes and accessories because they are afraid of Andy’s boss’s anger and they want the boss to be happy with her assisstant.

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The book-Andy has almost sold her soul to the devil that is her boss, Miranda. She has troubled relationships with her boyfriend, best friend and her family. While the movie-Andy has been shown to be in perfect control of her choice to take up the challenge of the fashion industry. She just misses her boyfriend’s single birthday party and is caught by her friend as she is flirting with a hot, famous writer.

Movie As A Continued Illusion

In simple terms, the movie is actually an extension of the illusion that the fashion and glamour industry is shown in the book, to extend on the readers of that fashion magazine. The book is trying to bring in a comparison between that illusion and the reality. But the movie is not willing to let go of the clouded mirror of the glitz and glam. So as viewers of the movie we still see that the bitch of the glamour industry is actually a good human being just doing her job. While the book clearly shows her to be a lonely, old woman blinded by the attention, that she has sold her soul to achieve.

But I believe the biggest lie that the movie gives us as consumers of art is what happens to movie-Andy’s love life. Especially since love is at the center of all this drama. It is the reason that teenage girls as well as women in their late forty’s are still movie fans and their favourite stars and stories. These stories more often than not show them a thin ray of hope that somewhere, someone finds true love that is a thing of dreams and fantasies.

Even after treating her long time boyfriend like shit when movie-Andy was out on her little detour into the world of fashion, her one apology sets things straight with her man. It is almost as if nothing happened and everything that she lived in the last one year as a woman who sold her soul to the devil, meant nothing at all. She ends up having a job at the magazine she dreamt of working for, when she first took up the job of working for a fashion magazine. And it is her boss who recommends ehr for the job. All the soul-selling that she does in that one year as the fashion industry slave, ends up in her having her dream job at the recommendation fo the kindly bitch boss, Miranda.

But the truth turns out to be that even after setting things straight and learning her lessons, she does not get to have that normal relationship back. It is not her career that is directly influenced by her one year stunt in a world that was absolutely alien to her. It is her own being that is influenced. She is changed. And in a way that is beyond her understanding. The girl that her longtime boyfriend loved was different from the one she had turned into after that one year. She had hurt him too much in the process of growing up the way she did. And so, in reality, despite loving each other very much, Andy and her guy do not end up together. The book leaves us on a different note. It leaves us where Andy discovers her career.

It is this changed-self that she begins to record in her writings henceforth. She starts out small like all her writer contemporaries. She goes out sharing her documented experiences of the past one year, of the time she was in the Wonderland like Alice. And she gets no big breaks. She, in fact, starts her first baby steps towards her career of becoming a writer. Which is exactly the way it should have been, in the first place.

When you want to do something, you must get on with it. You must not fool yourself or allow the world, and its twisted ways, to fool you into thinking that doing a bunch of random, irrelevant things is somehow going to magically help you do what you want to do. The simple secret discovered is that when you want to get something done, you got to start doing it. Funny how people have to go through so much shit in life to understand this simple fact. This book by Lauren Weisberger is also, essentially, a documentary of how a woman learns this lesson. But the movie is not.

The movie simplifies everything till a point that truth turns into a lie. It shows the movie-Andy sleeping with the man she has come to be attracted to at her workplace. Then she discovers the next morning that he is her beloved bitch boss’s rival and so she ‘realises’ he is not a good guy. Then she tries to warn her beloved bitch boss against him and realises that she is an even greater bitch. Her boss sacrifices a beloved friendship in order to save her position as the boss of the magazine. Then movie-Andy somehow realises this is all wrong and decides to call it quits. “Suddenly” and just like that.

But the truth is documented in the book when the anger with which book-Andy finally snaps back at her scavenger of a boss (in order to save her life and not her boss’s) is  shown to build up everyday. Her loved ones and especially her boyfriend make her realise it every single day that she is actually cloning into one of the glamour industry’s zillion soulless clones. Everyday, each day, she is shown to be growing apart from her best friend who is being sucked by alcoholism in her absence. She is growing apart from her family who were there for her when she hit rock bottom in her life. She is growing apart from her lover and best friend because she is no longer available to make conversations with him and share her life with him. And foremost, she is realising it everyday that she is doing nothing at all to push her writing career forward, by fetching coffee for her boss and kissing writers as she finds them. And so she is forced to swing between being a decently obedient (read deluded) assistant and a fiercely critical (read aware) bitch, when on her job. She is swinging in between being loved and being hated by those around her int he fashion industry.

And it is this swinging back and forth that finally causes her melt down one fine day. Her friend, her beloved best friend since childhood, has been in an accident. And her bitch boss is too busy pissing everyone around her, to notice it at all. She cannot leave her boss to go sit by her best friend. Above it all book-Andy is then faced with another one of her boss’s impossible tasks to fulfil. That is the moment when she breaks down. Mind you, she does not break down when she realises that her bitch boss is being wronged by an attractive male writer with influential contacts. Her sanity snaps when she realises that she is but a doll to this industry which is fueled by its clothes and make up. She is being expected to slog all around as and when she is keyed by her boss. And this, she is supposed to do while continuously being in awe of the very people that have held her enslaved!

This is what snaps her out of the delusion. And not what they show in the movie. Which is just an extension of the delusion. It is amazing how different a story becomes just by falling through the hands of a few dozens of people. Imagine how distorted the stories that have been passed down to us by millions of people, really is? The stories told in the name of God and of certain men and women who were seen as Gods or God-like. Imagine how much would they all be different now, from their original formats. And how we tend to live our lives everyday based on these stories without sparing a minute of quality analysis of these stories.

The people who made the movie Devil Wears Prada had the brands to and corporations to answer if they chose to go by the book’s sketch of what the industry was on the inside. So they chose to slightly twist the plot to please everyone involved. But imagine what big a twist men can bring to the stories sitting at the hearts of civilisations, especially those men that are endorsing brands of their own. Brands like power and money.

So what we learn today is that before we come to indentify with these stories about our heroes or our Gods, we need to pause adn reflect on their possible truths. We need to question and analyse them. This is not against faith in any manner. Logical analysis of our faiths and beliefs and also our stories will only deepen our faiths. Because it will bring us to the truth that still lingers in the twisted stories. It is an ongiong process and we need to understand that. There is no absolute truth that we can take from another person. If ever there is an absolute truth, it must come from within ourselves. Until that happens, we need to continuously stay in alert analysis of the stories we are fed by the world (friends, family, community, country), in order to stay on the path of truth.


There was yet another longish analysis of the movie Devil Wears Prada starring Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep. Here is what I am trying these days with the stories that I pick up to analyse. I try to look for their inspirations and their roots as part of my research into the intentions fo the people telling the story and what the story has to teach. Do let me know what do you think about this rant and comment below if you would like to read more about any other particular story.

If you liked this story please follow the blog because I post new stories every Monday and Thursday.

Posted in Artists

Bohemian Rhapsody | Broken Down To Pieces

(This is the second part of the previous blog post introducing the music of Queen and its magnum opus Bohemian Rhapsody. Link is here.)

Before we begin here are some precludes to the analysis of this piece of art.

Like many great works of art, this piece is not something that reveals its truest self immediately. It leaves you – the listener, or rather, the consumer of art – dazed and confused. It touches certain parts of you and absolutely slips off others. You want to listen to it over and over again because of the connections it made with you. They make you want to grab its complete meaning. The meanings and inspirations and basically the inner workings of the artist come to you only slowly and you return to it over and over again till that happens.

All language is but a collection of associations or what poets like to call metaphors. Everything, seemingly, has a meaning of its own and also an associated meaning that refers it to something else, bigger or smaller that itself, depending on what the user wants to do with it. This art piece is known as much for its musical splendour as for its literary skills and use of words. some call it ridiculous and others call its genius. But none can ever call it ordinary. There are random sounding words, seemingly irrelevant syllables, inserted between a story that is the song. But going by the rules of associative nature of language and also not underestimating the genius of its creator Freddie Mercury, we will look at their inherent meanings.

And then, having broken down this piece of rather heavy to digest soul food, we will try to consume it in its entirety. Allow it to dissolve itself in our guts and swirl with our minds to nourish our souls and help us summon that shy wild animal that is our soul. So we can have a better look at it, so we can give a better meal to it.

The song begins with a story before digressing into seemingly parallel universes and finally returning back to the story. It is the story of a murder. A death has occured.

Death here is an important motif. In mythology, death is usually associated with a new awakening. Because it is believed that there is not such thing as absolute death but only transformations. Energy travels from one form of manifestation to another. Thus death to one kind of world is but a birth to another, new world.

A young boy is confessing to his mother, that he has killed a man. He has put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud sees the symbol of a gun with a barrel and a trigger to be a metaphor for the male sexual organ. Here is where we quickly remind ourselves that Freddie Mercury was a homosexual man, born in a conservative religious family, but whose spirit was that of a bird. He nourished his wings the with music of rock and roll and dreamt of becoming a legend one day. A legend who can be looked up to and not mocked at (for being a homosexual or anything else at all). There was a transformation that was at the heart of this young boy from a very young age, maybe since he first named himself Freddie from Farokh Bulsara. (Mercury is only the ruling planet of his sun sign, Virgo. He was not a believer of astrology but still used the zodiac symbols of all his team mates to create the logo for Queen.)

Is this the real life? 
Is this just fantasy? 
Caught in a landslide, 
No escape from reality. 

 
Open your eyes, 
Look up to the skies and see, 
I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy, 
Because I’m easy come, easy go, 
Little high, little low, 
Any way the wind blows doesn’t really matter to me, to me. 
 
Mama, just killed a man, 
Put a gun against his head, 
Pulled my trigger, now he’s dead. 
Mama, life had just begun, 
But now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.
 

 In the next few lines, he speaks about how he is going to leave behind people of the world. It is this world where the death has occured. He is going to leave them behind to realise the truth. He is bidding goodbye to the world that refuses to accept the truth that he has realised and which is giving him strength to leave it for good. It is this truth that is empowering him to oversee the death. The death, it must observed is of a man, by a boy.

A man, who in the society Farokh Bulsara is brought up, is handed down roles to fit into. The worst of which is that a man is not to love another man. Not like you would love a woman, like the eternal love that binds two souls, like the love that is consumed into marriage. Here a man never kisses another man with passion. Not on lips, not anywhere else. Passion is a barred, banned word here.

But what is the truth he is leaving behind for us? Religion says that all kinds of sexual indulgences should be done in the name of propagating the young ones and helping the species survive on this planet. Science supports that indeed sexual partnership occurs only for the reason that new generations can continue coming into this world. Then how do we explain homosexuality and the sexual urge of a man for another man, when we know there is no way for a young one to fruit off of this union? What can possibly be true and natural about such an urge and not be just a disease, an anomaly in the human gene of the individual, as is popularly believed amongst the homophobics?

Mama, ooh, 
Didn’t mean to make you cry, 
If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, 
Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters. 
 
Too late, my time has come, 
Sends shivers down my spine, 
Body’s aching all the time. 
Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go, 
Gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.
 

Let’s try to find out before we move on with the story here.

Recently I watched by the youtuber vsauce – Why We Wear Clothes that spoke about the reason humans wore clothes, that opened my mind to a new possibility of looking at the world. It said that the reason humans are a different species from the rest of those on earth, if not superiors exactly, is intelligence.

What is intelligence? Is it the size of the brain of the species? If yes, then there are so many species born with larger brains. Infact, it is not just the size of the brain but the proportionate size of the brain when compared to the body of the animal. For example, even though the whale has a much larger brain in its body, as compared to the human being, it also has a much larger body to cater to with it. While humans have a much smaller body to cater to, in comparison to the size of the brain that they have. The ratio of the size of human brain to the human body size is the largest, bigger than even the dolphin.

This is possible because even after the human baby comes out of the body of the mother, the brain continues to grow. The child needs nurturing and caring in order to have their brains grow larger. During this process, it is not advisable for the parents to have more young ones. Although there are other species of animals too that require care for the young one long after it is born, humans surpass all of them in the time duration required for its young one to come of age. (Sometimes upto their middle ages as well, which is when they begin taking their own decisions and live autonomously. But that is a whole different story.) Thus, merely sexual activity is not responsible for the successful propagation of the human species on Earth. There are more subtle and important factors in play that give us our intelligence, which is soon proving to be a major factor in our propagation on Earth. And this is why humans cover up their private parts so as to not propagate sexual feelings that may eventually lead to young ones being born before the others are grown up enough. We wear clothes to propagate our intelligence and eventually help the survival of our species on Earth.

It is a particularly popular fact about homosexuals that they do not indulge into sexual activity as much as the heterosexuals do. Which also makes sense because it is not a natural physical tendency in them to do so. However, they do share some of the deepest of bonds with their partners. These bonds are built on attractions that are more subtle than the physical drive of the organs for each other. It is the drive of the softer, more intellectual nerves that brings them together. It is a bond of emotions. And emotions do not root anywhere else but in a sophisticated brain. A brain that is self aware and free to acknowledge its dynamic nature.

So maybe the truth is in the near future, ahead of us, where the homosexual tendency will no longer be considered rooted in a diseased or dysfunctional human brain. Rather it will be recognised as the characteristic of a more refined human brain that is sensitive and self aware. After all we have altered so many truths of the past like racism, sexism, etc. This could be another one where men who dare see a new world will rise to be in a greater number and help us all see with new eyes.

Until then, we have men like Freddie Mercury who feel the truth in their soul and only know how to translate it into their art.

In the next part, the song translates into a mock opera style music. Interestingly, this opera style is nothing but Commedia Dellarte where the famous opera Marriage of Figaro by Mozart is being referred to. This format of the opera was famous for pulling the aristocratic leg of the society at the time. Aristocracy was known for its hypocritical ways where the men in power, abused their power to bend the laws of the society in their favour. Figaro is the character who puts up a fight against a rich landlord, for whom he works. His fight is for his lover Susanna who is also eyed by the Count Almaviva. They are both his servants. But Figaro manages to teach the arrogant and blinded-by-lust owner a lesson in humility and honesty. He manages to marry his lady love and also restores the love in his Count’s life.

What does this have to do with Freddie and Queen you may ask? Well, although it is metaphorically relevant in terms of fighting the established institutional truths that are blinded by power and money, there is another connecting dot. It is the character of Cherubino in the opera. Cherubino is a character in the story of Figaro that has a disputed sexual orientation. But he is not discriminated against by Figaro for his queer gender orientations. In fact, he gains help from this disputed state of his sexual orientation and fools the arrogant master. The opera, Marriage of Figaro, was acted out during the time Queen was working on its masterpiece. It is highly likely they visited the opera. The album was called A Night At The Opera which houses the hit single Bohemian Rhapsody. Too much coincidence?

Mama, ooh (any way the wind blows), 
I don’t wanna die, 
I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all. 
 
I see a little silhouetto of a man, 
Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango? 
Thunderbolt and lightning, 
Very, very frightening me. 
(Galileo) Galileo. 
(Galileo) Galileo, 
Galileo Figaro 
Magnifico-o-o-o-o.
 

Coming to the other parallel universe characters.

Fandango is essentially a dance that is danced at the end of the opera, Marriage of Figaro, where Figaro is finally happily married to his lady love Susanna. This is a traditional dance of the couples, also in the traditional sense of a couple being a man and his wife.

Scaramouche is another name for a scapegoat of the society. He is ordered around like a puppet to dance the Fandango in the story. That is he ordered to have a married life, in the traditional sense of it. Which is why a silhouette is asking the boy to dance the mating dance. Along with thunderbolt and lightening – means they are punishing the boy with this order. He is being asked to marry a woman although he has maintained that he is a gay man. He has killed a man, which is the man in himself. He has died to the truth of a man that society defines for him, a man who marries a woman and does the mating dance of Fandango. He has chosen to remain an innocent boy who loves everyone without any gender biases or physical obligations. He loves whosoever  he chooses to and not someone the society chooses for him.

That brings us to the most important character reference of Galileo who was a man that stood up against the society blinded by religion and believed in the truth of science. He believed in the power of rational thought and human curioisity to prove the faith of religion as falsehood. He was against the blind acceptance of faith and beliefs in place of radical thought and science. When the world around him said the obvious thing that Earth was at the center of the world and the rest of the Universe including the Sun and the stars, circled around it; he maintained that, in fact, the Earth went around the Sun adn not vice versa. He was punished publically for this was an offence of the established truth, the Church, the authorities who only wanted to suppress the truth for it had the freedom to set the men free. And freedom was not good for authorities, especially not of those being ruled. So Galileo is symbolic of a man standing against the society for a truth he believed in with all his logical and pragmatic thought. He was against the self-proclaimed Men of God.

With time we have come to acknowledge this truth as well. Earth is indeed not the center of the Universe, infact, it is a very very very tiny part of it.

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go? 
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!) 
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!) 
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!) 
Will not let you go. (Let me go!) 
Never, never let you go 
Never let me go, oh. 
No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 
Oh, mama mia, mama mia (Mama mia, let me go.) 
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me.
 

Opera is also symbolic of using the feminine high pitched voices in place of people who are in support of the young boy wanting to break away from the society. Sensitivity, tenderness and sophistication is more often than not associated with the feminine parts of a human being. Hence the women are in favour of the truth that the boy has learnt and wish for him to be let gone. (This is another reason a feminist is often called a defeatist because they believe in letting the culpable go. While the truth is they understand what truth lies even in the apparently culpable hearts. It is a truth that brings a dawn of a new day. She is life and supports this new life even if it means death to the old one.) Death is supported here and thus there has to be a devil involved. It is the character of beezlebub who is an ancient devilish character that propagates death, that sets aside a devil for the young boy’s spirit. 

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye? 
So you think you can love me and leave me to die? 
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby, 
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here.
 

And then, it is fuck-this-shit. It is time for the young boy to come out and say it in the face of all those who are against his truth, even if they are his loved ones. Which is why he challenges those who love him and says that he will not be left to die by them. It is reminiscent of the Hero’s Journey as outlined by mythologist Joseph Campbell. Since Freddie was brought up in a strictly religious environment, their is great influence of mythology on his work. A hero, in all mythologies, has to first go against those that are close to him – people of his world – to set out on an adventure. This adventure is the quest for truth. And he must leave, even if, those that love him think they are doing good for him by keeping him tied down. He must still break away and go. Which is what this story ends like. The young boy breaks away and in style.

Enter the Rock and Roll that Queen is famous for. Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here. And he does.

Here is where the song grasps at the heart of all those listening. The power of the electric guitars and the drums are emanicipating and liberating. It is the reason the song was twice on the Top Musical Charts of the world, separated by two decades. This piece has a universal appeal. It is the power of the soul claiming what is its own, what the society and those around him are snatching away from him. It is a summon to all the energy of the world to help him claim his life back, to help him transform for a new world, a world where he belongs, a world he partly discovers and partly, builds for himself. This piece is the reason Queen is not just a rock and roll band but a legend in itself.

Nothing really matters, 
Anyone can see, 
Nothing really matters, 
Nothing really matters to me. 
 
Anyway the wind blows


I hope you liked this rather longish analysis of Bohemian Rhapsody, the magnum opus of legendary rock band Queen. More musical analyses to come ahead. Do comment below whatever you felt about the piece and propose any more artr pieces that you would like to be analysed.

Blogs have been absent for a while now. But I was preparing for my MFA and Divinity School applications. I promise to be regular now.

posting new posts every Monday and Thursday. If you like it, please follow the blog for more such stories and story analyses!

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